Bestiary 3

3alan

Alan

Beings from Tinguian people from the mountains of Luzon, in the Kalinga province of the Philippines. Half men and half birds, they have fingers and toes reversed, fingers on their feet and toes on their hands. Mischievous, they could be hostile, but usually they are friendly. They live in the forest, hanging upside down from the trees like bats. Sometimes they adopt human children, and as foster parents of local heroes they are depicted living in houses of gold.

My rendition of Alan harks back to Dr.Suss.

3shai-hulud

Shai-Hulud

Sandworm of Arrakis from Frank Herbert’s epic “Dune”, the only living form in the known Universe to have its chemistry based on sulphur instead of carbon. Specimen longer than 400 metres were seen in the deep desert. It lives to a great age, unless slain by one of their own kind, or drowned in water, which is a poison to it. Most of sand on Arrakis, which covers 80% of the planet, is credited to the action of sandworm.

A mortal enemy of all carbon-based life, it lives under the surface of the desert and when it detects vibrations caused by living creatures, it rushes underground towards the source, emerges on the surface and devours it.

Shai Hulud has a complicated reproduction cycle. An early form is a half plant, half animal living deep in the sand. Its excretions form the “melange”, the most expensive drug in The Empire. Chiefly noted for its geriatric properties, it slows down ageing and opens windows to alternate states of mind. It is severely addictive in large doses. Without the melange there would be no interstellar travel through the hyperspace, for the Guild’s Navigators claim their guiding powers from it, even though it transforms their bodies into barely humanoid blobs. The Bene Gesserit Sect used it to enter deeper states of consciousness. Diet rich in melange produces “Eyes of Ibad”, when the eyes and pupils turn permanently deep blue.

Desert Fremen learned to summon the Shai-Hulud by thumpers, oscillating metronomes, and when the sandworm arrives to devour the thumper, Fremen would mount the sandworm with the help of long-handled hooks which they sink into the soft flesh between the armoured rings of the worm. With parts of its flesh exposed, worm cannot dive underground and has to travel on the surface, directed by Fremen’s hooks. Following the Jihad, ecological changes on Arrakis resulted in a near extinction of the sandworm.

3barnacle geese

Barnacle Goose

also known as a Tree Goose.

Giraldus Cambrensis wrote in 1187 AD that in Ireland there are birds called barnacles, which reproduce by unusual means. No eggs are laid and goose does not sit on the eggs. “In no corner of the world are they seen to pair or build nests. They resemble marsh geese, but are little smaller. They start as gummy excretions from pine beams floating on the waters, then they are enclosed in shells to secure their free growth. They hang by their beaks, like a seaweed attached to timber. Later, covered in feathers, they either fall in the water or fly away.” He then exclaims: ”I have often seen with my own eyes more than a thousand minute embryos of these birds on the sea shore, hanging from one piece of timber, covered with shells and already formed.” (Hear! Hear!)

Jews picked up the Irish tale, but they run into a problem of deciding whether the geese were kosher, permitted food or not. Rabbi Tam declared that it may be eaten after ritual slaughtering as poultry. His contemporaries argued that geese, having grown from a branch of a tree, were a fruit, and permitted food not requiring any rituals (Zohar 3:156). Rabbi Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil forbade it, as he regarded it as a species of shellfish. The debate run as late as 1862, when Rabbi Illowy disputed the decision of the Shulhan Arukh who declared barnacle geese forbidden, as they were creeping things.

3Echidna

Echidna

Echidna means a “She-viper” in Greek. She was a monster, half woman, half serpent. Sister of Geryon, she was an offspring of Chrysaor and Callirhoe, and lived underground in the land of Arimaspians. Her main contribution to the history is as a brood mother of a whole menagerie of beasts and monsters. With Typhon she had Orthus, (the infernal hound of Geryon), Hydra, Cerberus and Chimera. With her own son Orthus she spawned Sphinx and Nemean Lion. By some accounts she was also mother of the vulture who tore the liver of Prometheus, dragons of Hesperides and the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece.

Most of her progeny was killed off by Hercules, one by one. Having proved his manhood in this manner, he was admitted to Echidna’s bed, as he was passing by with the cattle that he stole from her brother Geryon. They had three offspring together, Agathyrsus, Gelonus and Scythes, who became founders of three nations in the area of today’s Russia. As he moved on, Heracles left behind his bow, saying that the one who will be able to draw it, will prevail over other tribes. Scythes successfully drew the bow, and his people, Scythians, dominated Russia ever since.

3makara

Makara

Makara is a Hindu counterpart of Capricorn. A sea monster with head and forelegs of an antelope and body and tail of a fish. Also called Jala-rupa (water foam) or Asita-danshtra (black teeth).

It has four leonine legs, scaly body and crocodile’s tail. It stood for “absolute reality concentrated in water”. It appears on architraves, headdresses, earrings, gargoyles, talismans etc. It figures in many legends and myths, where it possesses occult and magical powers connected to water and fertility. It became a vehicle of god Varuna and goddess Ganga, identified with a rainbow.

To take a pearl from the mouth of makara is a feat of proverbial courage.

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